Bolsonaro’s Election: A Resounding Victory Yields an Uncertain Future - Part One
While Brazil’s general elections may have come to an end with the much-anticipated victory of right-wing candidate Jair Messias Bolsonaro of the Social Liberal Party (PSL), the significance for the “country of the future” is far from clear. Bolsonaro may have handedly won the run-off against his opponent, Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party (PT), but questions abound over his ability to govern and how quickly he can return Brazil to macroeconomic and political stability, if at all.
We conclude that Bolsonaro’s mandate is not nearly as strong as the vote totals suggest. As a result, generating economic growth, improving employment prospects and delivering early political “wins” in 2019 will be critical to sustaining a Bolsonaro presidency.
How to interpret an “anti-election”
We believe that this election is not properly interpreted as a “win” for Bolsonaro; rather, it was a “loss” for traditionally powerful parties like the leftist Workers’ Party, their coalition partners, such as the centrist PMDB, and historical political elites. Bolsonaro was simply the vehicle for opposition to the status quo and the establishment. Despite campaign rhetoric to the contrary, most of the electorate did not vote based on issues of political economy, nor were they focused on the two polarized presidential frontrunners that ultimately made it to the second round. Rather, with the exception of small percentage of ideologically-committed voters on the left and right, centrist-minded Brazilians voiced their disgust with a discredited political class, a trail of systemic corruption left by the Workers’ Party and a coterie of power-hungry political parties in their governing coalition during the last two decades – the extent of which was only truly revealed during the Car Wash (“Lava Jato”) operation.